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SHAH ABBAS THE GREAT           267
that he drank wine freely was but a trifling hindrance
to his reputation for exemplary piety, Moslem ethics in
such matters being different from those of the West.1
His Domestic Life.—It is with revulsion that we are
forced to turn from the greatness of the Shah's public
achievements to the brutalities of his domestic life. Yet
even here some allowance should be made for the position
of a sovereign of Persia whose ill-wishers would certainly
endeavour to make his heir the instrument of their
Briefly, the facts to be recorded are these. Abbas
had four sons, and when they grew up he became jealous
of their popularity and regarded their advisers as his
enemies. Whether he had good reason for his fears we
do not know. Safi Mirza, his eldest son, was the first
victim. The Shah was led to believe that this Prince,
who possessed the attractive qualities of valour and
liberality, was plotting against him to avenge the death
of a favourite who had been executed. In order that he
might escape the odium of putting his popular son to
death, he apparently arranged for him to be stabbed by
a certain Behbud Khan, who alleged that he was avenging
a private injury. The assassin took bast, or sanctuary,2
in the Shah's stable, and was not only pardoned but
promoted to high office. But remorse preyed on the
father's mind and, seeking in further cruelty a strange
alleviation for his sufferings, he ordered the wretched
Behbud Khan to bring him the head of his own son.
The order was obeyed and the following dialogue ensued :
" How dost thou feel ?" asked the Shah. " I am miser-
able," was the reply. " Thou shouldst be happy," was the
Shah's rejoinder, "for thou art ambitious, and now in
thy feelings thou art the peer of thy Sovereign." The
second son, Tahmasp Mirza, fortunately died a natural
death ; but shortly after the murder of Safi Mirza, the
two remaining sons became objects of their father's dread-
ful jealousy, Khudabanda, the elder, had acquired much
1  In The Glory of the Stia World, p. 139, the Persian point of view is given.
2  In Persia, Legations, Consulates,   Shrines,  Telegraph  Offices, and  Stables  are
regarded  as  sanctuary.    The bast in the British Legation is referred to  in  Chapter